Bones of Fire

Several years ago, I worked for a summer camp as a counselor. At the start of the season, all the counselors moved in early for orientation and training. Everyone got introduced to each other and we filled out our counselor biographies. One thing I remember vividly about the biographies was one of the other counselor’s answer to the question “If you had a super power, what would it be?” Traditional powers like flying and invisibility were considered taboo so you had to get creative with your answers. While other counselors were shooting root beer out of their fingers, this guy wanted to have “Bones of Fire”.

For anonymity, we’ll call this guy “John”. I had met him at at school before in my freshman chemistry class and knew he was a Christian. At any university, not every Christian hangs out with every other Christian but we all know each other through the grapevine. John had gotten into a car accident a few months earlier and it turned out to be a really bad wreck. He ended up having to have a lot of bones put back together and back into the right places. We all heard about John’s wreck and the word to pray for his healing went quickly through the community. Fortunately, he was able to recover enough in time to work that summer.

Naturally, when John said his super power would be Bones of Fire, I assumed he was making some kind of thinly veiled comment about the long term discomfort and pain that comes with crushed bones. What I, and probably many of the other counselors, didn’t understand at the time was that this was a deeply theological reference. During my time as a camp counselor, this comment on bones of fire didn’t have a profound effect on me but it did stick in my mind for its strangeness.

Parallel to this season, I had committed myself to reading the whole Bible. It wasn’t until a few months after the summer was over that I came across this piece of scripture:

If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” Jeremiah‬ ‭20:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

When I laid my eyes on that for the first time, it was like a bolt of lightning struck me with understanding. You see, John had neatly sidestepped the conversation about silly super powers and brought the thunder with a real one.

The book of Jeremiah, where this verse is located, was written by a young man the Lord called to service. He wasn’t great and he had no love for public speaking. Often, he was known for crying in public, coming to be known as the “weeping prophet.” On the charisma scale, this guy had probably a 2 out of 10. He did have one thing, though, that all of the other prophets did not: he had the word of the Lord.

Now, in those days, the Bible had not been completed and prophetic words and signs were useful to God as a way to warn His people and to reclaim their attention from false gods. Unfortunately for the prophetic messenger, these words of God were rarely well received and often ignored. The messenger usually ended up being tortured, punished, or killed for speaking them. While all the other prophets were busy spreading false words from false gods, Jeremiah was hearing from the Lord. God knew of the sinfulness and hatred that would come against Jeremiah and warned him that this would happen.

“And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you.”” Jeremiah‬ ‭1:18-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Today, fortunately, we have the completed Bible. All of the works of the prophets have come to pass. The Lamb of God, that the is the Christ who was prophesied to be slain, has been slain and resurrected. The good news of the Gospel has been preached and explained and written down. And, the final revelation has been given to us so that we can know and be prepared for the day which is still to come, the great day of the Lord.

But here’s my point… when you read the Bible, you are consuming the Word of God. Today, we no longer have to receive signs and visions to know what God says because we have access to the Word of God itself. (You can read about why we can trust the Bible as the word of God here). As you study what God says and spend time with Him in prayer and meditation, you’ll grow deeper in your faith and understanding. You’ll begin to find that your thoughts start to shift more and more towards the eternal things and the mysteries of God. You’ll really start to understand that God redeeming us even when we didn’t deserve anything but hell is the best news that could ever be given. You’ll start to feel like you need to tell someone about it. After a while, your faith will become like a fire, shut up in your bones.

I didn’t understand what having bones of fire meant back then. I don’t really think it’s a super power either. When it comes down to it, though, I can only hope that the fire continues to burn and that I don’t try to hide it within me, lest it burn me up. I hope the same for you as well. May we all have Bones of Fire.

If the Bible has been translated so many times, how can we even trust it?

Some faith traditions believe that any translation of the holy scripture strips it of its credibility. The belief is that only the words in their original form can possibly be holy, carrying their full divine message. Unlike other religions, Christians believe that their holy text can be translated from its original language without losing its inerrancy. This belief relies on the message remaining intact in spite of the actual, textual words used. With this stipulation in mind, translators have worked for centuries doing their best to work out the true essence of the original writings of scripture and put them into words that can be understood by the next generation.

A short history of the Bible

What many English speakers don’t understand is that their copy of the Bible is 100% translated text. The Bible is not simply a book, rather it’s a library, made up of several books, all written in different languages by different authors. Excluding the Apocrypha, the Bible is made up of 66 books written over hundreds of years in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Over time, the Bible was translated into Latin and was primarily read in this language up until the Middle Ages. Even though Latin fell from the lips of men as a spoken and written language, the Bible remained only in this language. This made it accessible to just the Roman Catholic clergy because they were the only ones who could speak and read it.

Unfortunately for believers everywhere, this was a bad thing. Since only a few had access to and knowledge of the Word of God, the Word became hidden from man. Eventually, through the efforts of people like Erasmus, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, and others, the Bible was translated into updated Latin and later to common German and eventually English. These men felt that not only can the Bible be translated into other languages, it must be. If every tribe, tongue, and nation will be represented in heaven and salvation comes through hearing the Word, then clearly God intended for his message to go out to the ends of the earth in everyday language.

Considerations in translation

What these scholars learned in translating the Bible is that words have a tricky way of meaning multiple things. Also, when moving across languages, sometimes a word exists in one where an entire phrase would be needed to communicate the same idea in the other. This can leave the translator with a serious problem. Should they try to be as precise as possible in the actual definition of the words or should they try to communicate the message in an understandable way that is more like the way people speak? Also, what happens in one or two hundred years when the way people speak has changed so much that your translation sounds old and nobody wants to read it?

The answers to these questions lead us to the point we’re at today in America. There is a list of English Bible translations as long as my arm, each rooted in the original manuscripts. Thanks to biblical scholars working hard to keep up with modern language, we can read God’s Word comfortably and breathe in the richness of the story without having to get a doctorate in Ancient Greek or Hebrew.

But can you trust them?

One thing that would worry me is something I will call “translation creep”. If you translate a text from one language and then to another and then again, all using the previous version as the base for translation, you will eventually get to a point where the text no longer resembles the original writing. Think of this like a centuries long game of telephone. Fortunately, this is not what happens in biblical translation. Instead, the Bible has continually been re-translated from the same original texts and manuscripts, preventing it from experiencing translation creep.

Additionally, there are millions of copies of the Bible in existence today, and the side by side comparison between translations is often more like seeing two ways to say the same thing. This makes it extremely difficult to mislead people through tampering or misinformation within the text. Since a simple cross reference is within reach, tampering would be hard to get away with over a long period of time or across a wide range of people. If someone really wanted to mislead people about Christianity, the easiest way would be to get them to ignore the Bible altogether.

For this reason, I encourage you to pick up a copy of the Bible and read it. Read it for pleasure. Study it for understanding. Neglecting to read scripture is the first step in forgetting who God is. Reading it is the first step to gaining wisdom.

Appendix: A short guide to choosing which translation to read

With so many versions out there, it’s helpful to understand what some of them are before deciding which one to pick up. Fortunately, the variety of methods for translation has led to some incredibly useful and captivating translations of scripture. Reading multiple translations of the same text can lead to much greater levels of understanding. Even paraphrases like The Message Bible (MSG) can be useful from time to time when the soul of a piece of text eludes you.

The most popular, and my wife’s favorite, translation is the New International Version (NIV). This translation is well rounded, with a very even blend of word for word literal translation and more commonly spoken words and phrases.

The King James Version (KJV), formerly the most popular bible in america, is the classic translation most people think of when the think about Christianity. This translation was commissioned in the 1600’s by King James and was modeled after Shakespearean English. It was intended to be a very elegant and accurate translation and it achieved that. However, it’s not easy for us to read today and comprehension is difficult.

My personal favorite is the New Living Translation (NLT). This version is a little bit lighter on the direct literal translation and a little heavier on the essential (essence) translation. This really makes the poetry of the Bible come alive.

My second favorite is the English Standard Version (ESV). This version was intended to be as word for word literal as possible. I find this version very useful for study and it was the translation I used the first time I read all the way through the Bible.

Recently, the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) was updated again to become the Christian Standard Bible (CSB). Both are excellent choices and take a strong stab at literal translation with an eye to commonly spoken English. If you want a more readable version, go with the CSB. This edition came out in the last year and is among the most modern translations of Christian text.

If you really want to have some fun, The Scripture 2009 (TS2009) doesn’t try to decide between literal and essential translation. Where certain words don’t exist in English, this version leaves them in their original form! If you’ve ever wanted to do a word study or wanted to feel like a scholar, then this translation is for you. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to read for comprehension.

There are still others, I could go on. But the point is, the Bible is still alive today with updates being made as scholars and scientists discover more corroborating ancient texts or errors made in translations of the past.

 

Hope Restored: Stop Trying to Earn Your Gifts.

This week, we have our first guest post! I asked my wife to add her thoughts and and experiences to this blog and she came through with a great post on Romans 6:23.

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My parents didn’t buy me a lot of the Christian stuff that other Christian kids’ parents did. Other kids got things like Veggie Tales videos, creepy Precious Moments dolls, and Jump5 and Mercy Me CDs. One of the few things my parents did get was a series of cassette tapes called GT and the Halo Express. GT and the Halo Express put Bible verses to song for easy memorization for kids. My family listened to those tapes every time we got in the car to go somewhere.

I had forgotten about good ole GT until recently when I started to actively memorize and bring to mind Scripture. I found that a lot of the verses I remembered were the ones I sang along to in my mom’s car! The one that stood out to me the most was “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It would get stuck in my head for HOURS, like American Pie or the Song That Doesn’t End (thanks Lamp Chop). But until last year, I had never really understood what the verse itself meant.

I always understood the second part about the gift of God being eternal life, but the first part about wages and death… geez, who talks like that? It wasn’t until I really started breaking down what the verse meant that I understood the gravity of the statement and how the sum of the gospel is held in the juxtaposition of its two simple phrases.

“For the wages of sin is death”

When you hear the word wages, it’s always in relation to how much money someone is paid, like the federal minimum wage. A wage is something you earn – you’ve spent the time, you did the work, you earned your payment.

In the context of this verse, the work we’re putting in is sin. The bad news is that sin isn’t just the bad things that we do. Sin is what separates us from God and includes anything against the moral character of God. By being human, we all have sin in our very nature. We can’t help but be separated from God and do things that continue to separate us from God.

We are paid a wage for the work we do against God, and that payment comes in death. It reminds me of Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve are in the garden and God tells them they can eat from any tree except that one.

Then they go and hang out by that tree (bad idea) and the serpent comes along and is just like, “why aren’t you eating from the tree? it’s soooooooooo good.”

Eve is all like, “no we can’t, cause God said we would die if we did,”

Then the serpent is just like, “you won’t DIE! Just do it. You know you want to…”

Eve ate from the tree and gave it to Adam and he did too. But the serpent is a LIAR because they did die.

A bunch of other stuff happened first, like getting kicked out of Eden and God committing the first sacrifice (which is an altogether different story that’s super cool) and clothing them and getting them set up on some land. But then they died. Adam and Eve aren’t walking around now, are they? And everyone else that came after them died and everyone that’s alive now will die and everyone that is born in the future will die. I will die. You will die. We will all die, and it’s because of sin.

But we were not created to die. We were created to live in the garden in perfect communion with God, walking with him, talking with him, having a relationship with him. But because of Adam’s and Eve’s departure from God in their sin, they died. Now we, who are separated from God in our sin, will also die.

This is bad news.

“but”

It’s so sweet that there’s a but at the end of the bad news statement. That God loves us so much that he added a “but” and made a plan to rescue us. Because he’s God, and, again, he did not create us to die. He did not create us to be separated from him. In our present state, though, we were separated and we were going to die and continue to be separated from him. In his infinite goodness and love for us, he added a “but.”

“the gift of God is eternal life”

Gifts are not earned. They are not deserved. They are given freely and out of affection for a loved one. Even though, in our American culture, we put together birthday and Christmas lists so people can get us what we want, gifts can’t really be assumed or expected to be received because they were not earned. If you worked for it, you were really just paid a wage. If you didn’t, you were rewarded with a gift.

The gift we receive is from God. He crossed the chasm of sin that separated us from him and offered us rescue. Only he has the power to offer it to us. Again, it’s a gift. We cannot earn it. We can only accept it.

Eternal life is the gift that God gives us. Our bodies, because they are in their very nature sinful, will still pass away, but our souls, our inmost beings, will live forever in communion with God. This is GOOD NEWS! Death is not the end for us! We do not have to live forever in the shame, sadness, or darkness that comes from being separated from our creator! The feeling that’s within each one of us, the one that says something isn’t quite right and this isn’t the way things are supposed to be, will go away because everything will be put right. We will return to the way they were created to be. Eternal life means freedom, restoration, and regeneration.

“in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It’s important to note, though, that gifts can be given but not accepted.

For example, let’s say you’re hanging out at your apartment and it’s Saturday morning and you’re laying in bed not wanting to get up for the day. It’s a nice day and you can see the sun is shining and the sky is blue, and it’d be the perfect day to go for a drive. Only thing is that you have a super crappy car. Like, such a beater that you’re not sure you can even get it to the Walmart down the street later to get some groceries and even if you did you’re so embarrassed by the car cancer on top you don’t even want to!

Now for a bit of dramatic irony: your friend just won the Powerball. They took the lump sum and paid their taxes and built an offshore shell account and did everything responsible they were supposed to do first. Now they’re giving people stuff because they’re flush with cash, and they’re very loving.

Knowing your crappy car situation, your newly rich friend went out and bought you a brand new, shiny, fully-loaded vehicle and have it parked outside your apartment building now ready to give to you! But you don’t know this because you’re in bed feeling sorry for yourself. You get a text from them saying to come outside.

You’re like “nah I’m in bed ugh.”

They text you back and say, “for real, come outside I have something for you.”

And you’re like, “I’m not getting out of bed for anything right now.”

And they text you back and call you and start to get really urgent but you will not come outside. They come and knock on your door and call out to you but you just ignore them and finally send them a “new phone who dis” text.

So they got you a gift – but you never came out to accept it. If you don’t come out to receive your gift, you never get to enjoy the benefits of it.

Accepting the gift of eternal life comes through believing that Jesus, who is God’s son, ultimately paid the price for that gift with his own life. Jesus was both God and man. He was perfect and sinless as well as subject to the same sinful nature you and I have. Because of this, his death was the only death that could be the final payment for the death that we have all earned. He took death on for himself so that we don’t have to. He destroyed the power it held over us when he came back to life three days later. He broke the chains that bind all of us so we can live in freedom.

This is truly good news! That we could believe that God gave his son, Jesus, to take away the sins of the world to live in relationship with us. We cannot earn this relationship and we do not deserve to receive the gift of eternal life, but we can receive it when we accept it. Come out from the darkness of the pit of despair and shame you’re living in, and accept the gift of light and life fully restored to God.

Men and Church

“Why are all the baptisms for women?”

“Where are the good Christian men for my single friends to date?”

“How come none of our volunteers are men?”

If you spend any time in church at all you might notice that there’s an imbalance between men and women. According to David Murrow at Church for Men, the split for an average church is about 60% women 40% men. This is for the average, stable church.

On its face, that doesn’t seem like a problem. In fact, it feels kind of normal. However, that figure is not representative of the actual population of men and women in America. Based on the latest census data, the American gender distribution is roughly 50/50 with a very slight favor going to the women. Since the church has no stated bias towards women and Christianity is in favor of both genders, it makes sense that the church gender distribution should reflect the national population more closely.

Some would argue that religion in general is more of a feminine construct and that men simply don’t feel the need for it. However, looking way back into history, especially at religions born out of the middle east, men are the dominant figures. The arguers and perpetuators of  the major three (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) have nearly always been men, and often the manliest of men. Even today, a vast majority of clergy are men.

So, what’s the deal? Why don’t men just go to church?

1. Church is too girly:

In his book, Why Men Hate Going to Church, David Murrow makes the claim that men don’t go to church because it isn’t really built for them. If churches would “man up” their services by getting rid of all the doilies and stop singing “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs, then men would go to church. This is an interesting point, but I don’t think that it really strikes at the heart of why men don’t go to church.

2. Church is boring:

Murrow moves on to make a much stronger claim that cuts even more closely to the core of the issue. Men don’t go to church because there simply isn’t anything for them to do there. Since I am a man, I can bear witness to this. In my early days as a Christian, I wanted to help out in any way that I could. Unfortunately, the only places for me to volunteer were the kitchen, the nursery, or as an usher. I very quickly realized the kitchen was too small for me to be of use and the nursery was a place where men simply were not welcome. That left ushering. In a church of 150 people, you don’t need very many ushers so if you wanted to get one of the available slots you had to be one of the first 4 people to volunteer that week. Fortunately for me, I got to learn how to play drums and promptly monopolized that position on the newly formed worship team.

3. Men are disobedient:

Murrow doesn’t make this claim but I think it applies. There is a really small piece of scripture in the New Testament that seems to indicate that there might have been a similar attendance problem in the earliest days of the Christian church.

Hebrews 10:25 (NLT) say: And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

The Bible is not short on commands, but this is one is especially relevant. The author of Hebrews intended his letter as an exhortation (corrective encouragement) for the church. The letter encourages believers persevere in their faith and provides many lessons and proofs for that encouragement.

Church might sometimes be boring and it can be girly, but God told you to be there for regular encouragement and to prepare yourself for the day of His return.

Going to church is better than it sounds:

Church is good for men. You might think of it like eating vegetables at dinner. Men, when you were boys, you didn’t want to do it but your mom made you anyway. Why? Because it’s good for you. When you grew up, you decided you were old enough to choose your own path and eat as little vegetables as possible. Then you got married and what did your wife do? She made you eat your vegetables… because it’s good for you.

According to David Murrow’s research the benefits are as follows:

  • Churchgoers are more likely to be married and express a higher level of satisfaction with life. Church involvement is one of the most important predictor of marital stability and happiness.
  • Church involvement helps move people out of poverty. Its also correlated with less depression, more self-esteem and greater family and marital happiness.
  • Religious participation leads men to become more engaged husbands and fathers.
  • Teens with religious fathers are more likely to say they enjoy spending time with dad and that they admire him.

Church for Men cites several sources for this information here.

Men are good for church too. Any church that finds itself with a willing male volunteer has found a treasure. If the church has the capacity to employ men in current volunteer positions, they of course fill a felt need. However, if a church has the creativity to empower men to activity when no open volunteer positions exist, the church grows. Men are makers and doers. Men like to carry heavy things, repair homes, plant gardens, and interact with people outside of sitting in the pew. The church needs to be a strong operations center with its hands out in he community seeking and serving the lost, sick, and broken.

David Murrow’s research indicates that the felt absence of men leads to the actual decline in church growth over all. Churches that are able to reduce the gender gap and encourage male participation actually grow. If the Great Commission is to be realized, then church must be for men.

What Religion Are You: Baptist or Methodist?

If you throw a rock in the South you’ll probably hit a church or two. The “Bible Belt” is an amazing place when you consider that there is almost literally a church on every corner. Sometimes two, or three, depending on where you look.

On one hand, it’s good that there are so many churches. It makes access to the gospel incredibly easy since you can get it anywhere. On the other hand, it presents an interesting problem for Christianity. That enormous number of churches makes it easier for wolves to dress themselves up as sheep.

This is where Christian’s have to practice discernment. Among all these churches, you’ll find various practices and beliefs that may or may not be biblical. This is a problem that Christian’s have wrestled with for two thousand years. Throughout those years whole factions of Christian practice have come and gone, each leaving their mark on the religion. Some of these marks are more profound than others, particularly when it comes to the division of the Roman Catholic Church and Protestantism. The debate between the Reformers (Protestants) and the prominent Catholic clergy still remains in our atmosphere and there are still divisions between the two.

The root of this division had to do with the authority of the Bible usurping the authority of the Pope, church staff, and traditions. The Protestant movement began with scholars reading scripture, looking at the actions of the Pope and the Church and seeing a disconnect between what Jesus and the Apostles said and did and the way the modern clergy was acting and teaching. The Reformers may not have intended to cause division but rather correction in the thinking of the Church. The resulting Protestant movement led to the empowerment of believers in asking (and answering) the question of how to practice and interpret Christianity and biblical principles. This question and the various answers have led to tremendous growth and challenge for Christians and helped to push forward the creation of denominations. (For a quick survey of church history, click here.)

The creation and proliferation of Protestant denominations has made it difficult for both Christians and non-Christians to understand whether what it is we say we believe is our actual belief or an allusion to another belief. Today, a safe estimate for the number of ways Protestant Christians apply the same gospel message is somewhere between 200 and 300 distinct doctrinal sets according to the National Catholic Register.

Lumping in Catholics and Protestants together, you end up with what is essentially “Three Hundered and One Ways to be a Christian”. This is alarming to think about when every single one of these ways claims that they are following Jesus in the “most correct” fashion. For a new or practicing Christian, this must be addressed in a discerning and humble fashion if you are going to make it through this gauntlet of competing beliefs and understandings.

To help test whether your church or the church you are attending is going to be the best church for you (i.e. one that is going to help lead you through the narrow gate) I have put together a short set of questions for you to ask:

  1. Do they believe in an actual, human Jesus that is both fully God and fully man who existed as a real figure in human history?
  2. Do they believe that faith in this Jesus is the only means of salvation for the sinner?
  3. Do they believe that we are all sinners in need of that salvation?
  4. Do they believe that salvation is a gift from God and that no work of man is sufficient to mend the brokenness of man or the separation between man and God?
  5. Do they believe in limited atonement (not everyone is going to make it to heaven)?
  6. Do they believe in the authority of the Bible as the Word of God to the exclusion of other religion’s texts?

A “no” to any of these questions should disqualify a church from being called a Christian Church because Jesus (who was the Christ) teaches these things himself.

There are many many other issues that exist when considering doctrines and how they apply to your faith. Many denominations fall to one side or another when it comes to answering these issues or fail to address them at all. Even churches within the same denomination may differ when it comes to how they practice and interpret the Christian faith. The questions listed above are certainly not the only ones that are important when deciding where to attend and discerning whether a church is leading its congregation well. There are more issues than doctrine at play when it comes to the health of a church and its message.

At the end of the day, it falls to the individual believer for how they respond to the Gospel. The church is meant to be a place where believers can gather, worship God, and do their best to grow the kingdom of God. So, when it comes to denomination, do some research. Find out what the church says it believes and test that against scripture.

In closing, I leave you with this longtime church maxim: in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.

Scripture and Overcoming a Crisis of Faith

Around the age of 16, I went through something that I believe every Christian and probably anyone from any religion goes though: a crisis of faith.

Until that time I had mostly grown up in the church with only a few significant breaks in attendance. I came to saving faith in Christ at the age of 9 and was baptized in one my deacon’s pool. After that, as much as any child can, I lived as a full believer, insisting on going to Sunday school and church on a regular basis and generally acting well behaved.

This was all fine and good until one day I realized that I didn’t actually know what it was I believed. I had strong feelings about Christianity but little assurance that the things I said I believed were actually Christian. Not only that, I didn’t really know what all I claimed belief in. Looking around my hometown at other Christians didn’t really do much for confirming or explaining the belief system.

I remember the day I told my parents about my doubts. I remember it being momentous, yet strangely undramatic. I declared to my parents that I really didn’t know what Christianity was and that I was going to go about figuring it out. I told them that I was not going to give up my beliefs but rather discover what they really are. They looked at me and then at each other and said, “Ok”. There might have been some offer of help or other such thing but as a willful 16 year old, I wasn’t listening and I certainly wasn’t asking for help. I needed to do this on my own.

Nearly 15 years later I have a much better idea of the things I believe in and agree with and things that I don’t. Not only that, I understand that there’s a difference between belief and agreement. I have little doubt when it comes to the truthfulness or dependability of the Gospel and I have become strong in my faith in Jesus as the means to salvation from sin.

How did I get here? Through the reading of scripture, specifically the Bible. It is one thing to listen to and read what others say about the Bible and still another to read it yourself and find out what it says. There is an overwhelming number of beliefs, traditions, and sayings that Christians have taken up that simply are not contained in their holy book or are taken so far out of context that they are no longer true (at least not in application). I don’t mean to put down Christians–I am one of them; yet I have to point out that many of us in the American church do not know whether what we say is true to what God actually says or rhetoric picked up from cultural or nominal Christians.

Since the day when I declared that I would discover what it was that I believed, I have taken two complete laps through the Bible and innumerable excursions through portions of it. This is not nearly enough for me to declare myself educated or authoritative. I am a layperson through and through. Yet I can say with certainty that the Bible fulfills it’s own claims. It is useful for teaching and for rebuke. It is sharper than any two edged sword and it does divide flesh and spirit. I have been unmade and reworked on many occasions.

Scripture alone is the foundation from which the Church is built. This might sound counter to the claims of Jesus being the foundation or cornerstone but through the reading of the Bible you can discover that they are one and the same.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” ‭‭John‬ ‭1:1-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

To the believer, wisdom is freely given to those who chase after it. To seek to spend time in the Word is to seek to spend time in His presence. The reading of the Bible is the first and primary method for spending time in His courts. By consuming its message and washing yourself in its waters, you can test any other message for its truth and origin.

I have not come to the end of the journey begun so long ago. In truth, I am closer to beginning than I’d like to admit. However, I hope that you will be able begin your own journey into discovering what you believe. I hope that you decide to spend a day in the Courts of YHWH.

The Tetragrammaton

In Christianity, believers share in the concept that there is but one true God. This belief, known as monotheism, states that not only is the God the only God, all others claiming deity are false. Either they are simply made up or they are some lesser being claiming worship that is not due them. Christians, and Jews, have identified this true God, the one above all others, as YHWH.

This unpronounceable word, often rendered Yahweh or Jehovah, helps us identify who we claim as the only true God: “He Who Is” or “He Who Brings Being into Being”. The name YHWH helps us connect the God of Moses to Jesus, both having claimed the title, “I Am”. Further, the Name begins to introduce believers to the theology of a triune god (One being with three persons) since one of its claimants (Jesus) indicates the presence of the other two when he commands his disciples to pray in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The identity of our Lord is important for every Christian to be familiar with. By using the name, YHWH, we recognize not only the deity we worship but also declare that no other is sufficient for worship. We observe that others have come and gone, having challenged the Lord with their own lordships, and still the Name Above All Names persists, lending even further credit to the identity, I Am that I Am. Finally, we establish that our God is not the creation of a first century cult but actually the God of the Jews having come to fulfill the promises he made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as well as to David, Solomon, and the Prophets.

This is worthy of praise, that our Lord should see fit to honor us with His name, providing clarity for his identity and establishing his eternal presence. In the name of YHWH, the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, give thanks that you know who your God is, worshiping with glad spirit. For today is a good day to be in the Courts of YHWH.